Welcome to Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2023

It’s that Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Comedy Christmas!! Melbourne is chockers full of comedians and comedy fans all excited about the three weeks to come.

It’s hard to recommend shows, as everyone’s taste will vary, but I assure you that the Festival will have something to make YOU laugh, there are over 600 shows to choose from! You just have to find Your thing and that is part of what we Squirrels are about, helping you have a great night out. Our reviews can give you an idea if a show might be for you. Sometimes I can even read a negative review and think, no actually, that one might just be my cup of tea. That’s why it can also be great to take a punt on something new if it piques your interest.

I can definitely see a mini trend of musical comedy being back So I thought I might focus on this genre of comedy and list some acts that I can honestly recommend to you as astonishingly talented and funny performers. They have to be brilliant musicians, singers AND Comedians to really pull off Musical Comedy well and they can come at it from different perspectives be they political, geeky, storytelling, raunchy or just plain silly.

Recommended Musical Comedy Shows at MICF 2023

I’ll start with the well known superstars of Musical Comedy: Tripod, Sammy J – Good Hustle, Geraldine Quinn – Broad, Gillian Cosgriff – Actually, Good, Die Roten Punkte – Otto & Astrid’s Joint Solo Project (directed by Neill Gladwin and Dramaturg Casey Bennetto), Andrew Hansen –Is Cheap [The one from The Chaser who sang the songs]. (Do Lano & Woodley count as musical comedians? I have a CD of their songs….so maybe.) You just cannot go wrong choosing to see any of these amazing accomplished performers.

Newer local upcoming stars that everyone was talking about at last year’s festival include Reuben Kaye – doing 2 shows this year; Live and Intimidating and The Kay Hole, Michelle Brasier – Legacy, Gabbi Bolt – Odd Sock and Jude Perl (with Nina Oyama) We should Hang Out –[ it is Sold Out right now, hoping for an extra show]

There are also Cabaret Showcases such as Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night, Josh Earl’s 100%Hits and of course Haus Party at The Festival Club where the cream of the musical comedians (and other comedy stylings) will be turning up for spots.

Overseas musical comedians who may be new to you are visiting our shores in Festival season, here are some who are really worth checking out: UK’s Huge Davies [he’s dry and super cool, and part of New Order], Jordan Gray – Is It A Bird? [Ed Fringe Nominee pipped out of the top prize by our own Sam Campell] and Laurie Black – Dystopiano [doing feminist post punk synth comedy], I’ve seen them all, they’re great.

New Zealand’s Two Hearts We’re Pregnant and The Baby is Music, I think I’ve enjoyed them at a Festival Club….

Then there is Ned Kelly The Big Gay Musical by Kaine which is the only one I’m recommending that I’ve seen this before, but it looks like it might be jolly fun.

Other comedy at MICF.

Older school comedians coming to the Festival who you may not have seen do a show in a few years include Ed Byrne, Dylan Moran, Kyle Kinane, and our own Paul McDermott, Tony Martin, Bev Killick, Brad Oaks & even Akmal is back.

Political Comedy is popular too with Tom Ballard doing 2 shows, A Rational Fear doing 1 big show and Sammy J doing it via character comedy. Melissa MGlansey’s The Briefing (About maddening US politics – which is awesome, check it out). Osher Gunsberg Night Time News Network National News, is a curiosity we’re all wondering about, will it be political comedy? Or just a news lampoon, anyway it involves impro. Ben Russell, Greg Larsen & Friends are laying their politics out there with Election Results (Not Satire), they couldn’t be clearer, could they?

In Other News

European Bier Cafe has been renovated, re-named and is now called Morris House.
Some shows are already sold out or selling fast, new shows have been added for Sam Campbell, Tony Martin and Maisie Adams.
Cancelled shows are listed at the top of the list of shows on the MICF website.

If you know of shows cancelling or selling out, feel free to let us know on the socials or by email.

House of Oz – Venue 73 at Edinburgh Fringe 2022

By Lisa Clark

There is a new venue in old Edinburgh Town. The 2022 Edinburgh Festival sees the House of Oz pop in for a friendly visit. Hosting a dazzling variety of tasty Australian treats, from straight music, poetry and theatre performances, to cabaret and standup, it will celebrate the breadth of Australian talent, culture and creativity with a BBQ out the back featuring Aussie food, snacks, drinks and cocktails and a cafe with Melbourne style coffee and delicious lamingtons.

Comedians include:

Dolly Diamond who’s giving us a variety of goodies including Bosom Buddies (one of her guests last night was Rhys Nicholson so you never know who might pop up).

Garry Starr in the raucous Loose Unit.

Gabbi Bolt who was a breakout musical comedy star from this year’s Australian festival season in I Hope My Keyboard Doesn’t Break.

Geraldine Quinn doing her highly acclaimed Broad which was nominated for 2022 Best Show at Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

The Listies are doing a show based on Hamlet for kids: Prince of Skidmark and it will be for big kids too, no doubt.

A variety night called OzMosis: The Great Australian Variety Pack hosted by Dane Simpson.

The cherry on top of the Aussie Pav will be Die Roten Punkte’s Haus Party With Otto & Astrid, an outrageous alternative comedy/cabaret/circus showcase which is always a huge highlight at Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

There are two Venues: The Great Indoors and The Outback.
The Great Indoors is the Main Stage hosting most of the shows. It has a bar that’s open during shows and then Kicking On ’til late.

House of Oz is graced by a Sydney chef-in-residence David Lee who is co-curating the Taste Australia foodie events on Monday nights in The Great Indoors. Audiences can enjoy an immersive experience with artists like Reuben Kaye who will be celebrating their Russian-Jewish heritage through delicious food.

The Outback has an outdoor stage for shows such as kid’s shows and Dolly Diamond’s Hi T where she’ll be telling tales and singing songs while the audience tries not to snort their tea and lamingtons from laughing. The cafe is open during the day til 6pm.

The Outback Garden kitchen and Bar are open til 10pm.  BBQ meals include sausage sizzle, pizzas and some great veggie and vegan options. At the Bar, as well as the expected wines, spirits & beers you can buy four different flavours of BBQ shapes (£5 a box!) as well as £1 Caramello Koalas. There is a big jar of Vegemite on the bar – for using in cocktails… and you can get some stubbies of Bundaberg Ginger Beer.

There are comfy cushions and fairy lights along with the fabulous food, drink and world class festival shows at House of Oz, so it will, no doubt, be a gorgeous and fun place to hang out during August in Edinburgh.

You will find the House of Oz in the Kings Hall down near The Meadows. Visit https://www.houseofoz.co.uk/ for all the details about what’s happening in this delicious slice of Australia.

Cancellation of MICF 2020

We at Squirrel Comedy are gutted at the news that this years Melbourne International Comedy Festival (amongst many other large public events) has been cancelled due to health concerns. Our Hearts go out to all the performers, producers, the tech people and support crew. Everyone who worked so hard and put their time, energy, love and money into creating a super, fabulous Festival.

Here is a statement from Festival Director Susan Provan:

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement about non-essential mass gatherings, we have made the very difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

The success of our Festival is in the way that comedy transforms our city for the inspiration and entertainment of hundreds of thousands of comedy lovers.

Our primary concern is the health and welfare of our artists and participants, staff and audiences. Cancelling the Festival is heartbreaking but the only decision possible to support the community’s efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

We’re devastated by the news but thank everyone for their understanding and support.

Ticketholders will be notified shortly regarding refunds.

No decision has been made about the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow, due to commence in late April.

If you’re healthy, while you can, please support the local comedy rooms. If you find yourself stuck at home, almost all of the performers who were to appear at the festival have some content online (be it videos, podcasts, etc) for you to enjoy. If you can, throw them a buck or two as all performers have invested large amounts of time and money into the preparation of their shows. In some cases this Festival is often their main source of income and they help make Melbourne a top festival city and tourist destination.

So everyone stay safe and hygenic out there. We all need a laugh in these trying times.

Ethnic City

By Hooi Khaw

Ethnic City is a new  month long run of standup comedy gigs in Melbourne that brings to the stage a lineup exclusively made up of performers of colour. After going on a marketing rampage, with shout outs in The Age, The Herald Sun, and Triple R radio, Ethnic City sold out the 53 seat theatre at The Improv Conspiracy on opening night. The hype lives up to the expectation, boasting formidable lineups since the start of the run. The buzz of the audience is palpable, as they mill about the licensed bar, waiting for the show to start.

In an industry that is often decried for lack of representation, diversity has become a hot topic, and shows like Ethnic City create a space where performers can be appreciated for their talent and not seen as a token (with that added pressure to “represent”).

Room runner, local comedian Brendan Wan speaks to us in more detail about Ethnic City:

H: What is the intent behind Ethnic City?

B: The intent behind Ethnic City was to create a show where not only Performers of Colour can showcase their talents but also give audiences from diverse backgrounds a chance to see members of their own community do their thing on stage. Sometimes, it’s as simple as seeing someone that looks like you on stage that gives others the confidence to pursue their own certain projects. It’s no secret Melbourne’s creative arts industry lacks diversity. I know far too many incredibly talented ethnic actors, writers and comedians who need to create projects in order to pursue their artistic goals as their ethnicity isn’t regarded as marketable. When I started comedy, especially improv, I could count the number of people of colour on one hand. Gradually more people of diverse backgrounds have been welcomed on stage but we still have a long way to go until ethnicity isn’t regarded as unique.

H: What is your approach to balancing new comers and experienced comedians of colour?

B: I guess this is the same case with any comedy show, you have a big name headliner who initially attracts the general audiences and then the up-and-coming talent to support. I’ve been luckily enough to have the bigger name acts of Lawrence Leung and Sami Shah involved to perform at Ethnic City and they’ve been incredibly supporting of the whole show.

H: Have you been actively recruiting the acts, or are people asking for slots?

B: I’ve been actively recruiting acts but as the show has gone on for a few weeks, there have been a few people approaching me for spots. In the stand-up comedy side of things, I’m in a fortunate position to have more performers than I actually have spots for. But the nature of the show is that it’s a variety show, since comedy comes in all different genres, so finding ethnically diverse acts in other areas of comedy ie improv, clowning, cabaret, sketch – that’s been a bit of a challenge.

H: You’re currently booked for a four week run, what are your plans for Ethnic City moving forward?

B: There are definitely plans for Ethnic City to come back! However there will be a bit of a hiatus for the next few months since I’ll be involved with a few projects. There’s a lot of effort and behind the scenes work required to do this kind of show so juggling full-time work, with several projects can be stretching me real thin. So when it does come back, I’ll be giving it 100% commitment.

Ethnic City is on Friday’s 7pm at The Improv Conspiracy from the 24th of May 2019 until the 14th of June 2019. See website for Details –


Interview – Lorelei Mathias of Lemon Comedy

By Peter Newling

Squirrel caught up with Lorelei Mathias from LEMON Comedy on the eve of the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

LEMON Comedy bills itself as “a global comedy showcase that aims to promote diverse voices in stand-up, and comedy with a cathartic flavour”. Initiated a little over a year ago, the founders set out to find a way to celebrate comedians of colour; female-identifying and gender non-binary comedians; Indigenous comedians; comedians from the LGBTQ+ community; comedians living with mental illness, and comedians living with disability.

Lorelei, one of the co-founders of LEMON tells me that
The name comes from the experience of people of diversity feeling like a lemon – feeling left out or left to one side. Inclusion is about never feeling alone. And that’s what LEMON is all about – inclusion. And it works both for the performer and audience.

Some of their stories shake people out of their comfort zone she says. But for some audience members, the experience makes them feel less alone – sometimes for the very first time. That they’re hearing someone on stage talking about things that are very real to them, and surrounded by a like-minded audience, can be a very liberating and self-affirming.

At the same time, it’s a great avenue through which performers of diversity can get their stories and experiences in front of a paying crowd.

It works for comics feeling less alone, as well as audience members Lorelei says. Comedy has the power to do that.

LEMON comedy has an impressive line up for the MICF. They’re doing five comedy showcases over five nights – April 2 & 9 at their usual home, Hare Hole in Fitzroy; and April 3, 10 & 17 at the Imperial Hotel. They have an impressive array of talent joining them for these events. ABC Radio’s Sami Shah is headlining at the showcase on April 2. Alice Fraser will have that responsibility for the showcase on April 3. And they have an imposing collection of surprise MCs and headliners performing with them over the festival. But I can’t tell you who they are!!

I asked Lorelei how she went about the task of recruiting the big names to perform with the company. She told me that
The response from these star performers to the mission and aspirations of the company is extraordinary. They love the concept. It’s just great. They’re so supportive.

In a profession where one is constantly walking the thin line that separates proper from improper (whatever that is), it’s so good to hear that ‘the cause’ is an important thing to headliners.

I get the feeling that, as the LEMON comedy brand grows, they’re not going to have any trouble securing top quality, diverse acts to work with them.

The masterplan is for a global network of diverse comedy. LEMON is already established in Melbourne and London thanks to the hard work of its founders, Lorelei and Canadian stand-up levy Stamatov. They’d love to hear from anyone who can help them spread the word and establish in other places.

Thanks Also to the hard work of its founders, and co-producers in Melbourne Rose Bishop and Alistair Baldwin

LEMON Comedy have MICF showcases on April 2 & 9 at Hare Hole in Fitzroy; and April 3, 10 & 17 at the Imperial Hotel. Tickets via comedyfestival.com.au or at the door. (There’s a discount if your surname is “Lemon” or citrus related!) You can find out more about them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/LEMONCOMEDY) or follow them on twitter @LEMONCOMEDY

Here’s a Trailer: https://www.facebook.com/events/1621054831318617/

The Do’s & Don’t’s of Promoting your Festival Show by comedian George Dimarelos

By George Dimarelos

There are many do’s and don’t’s to getting the word out for your festival show. Here’s a list on some of the more well-known methods.



Politely ask friends to come along, a lot of the time they genuinely don’t know about the show and are more than happy to come along if asked.


Fake your death and schedule the funeral for your opening night. They won’t be as happy that you’re alive as you think.


Paid advertising


Think about paid advertising, is it right for you and your audience? After all, if you have a show about rats then it makes sense to post an ad about it in Melbourne Rats Weekly in their thriving ‘things to do about town’ section. Just let Glenda know I recommended you and you’ll get a good price.


Pay a witch to promote your show with the dark arts. The animal cruelty is not worth the small increase in audience size.




Use Facebook, not just the paid advertising but also thinking of communities or groups that would be interested in what you have to talk about. Facebook is the online community noticeboard, use it!


Throw books at peoples faces screaming “I LIKE YOU NOW COME TO MY SHOW.”




Think to yourself “I’ll gig around, the best way to get people to see what I do is to show them some of my moves. If they like me for my 5 minutes they may be interested to see me onstage for a full hour.


Think to yourself “I’ll sleep around, the best way to get people to see what I do is to show them some of my moves. If they like me for my 5 minutes they may be interested to see me onstage for a full hour.”




Plan your flyering for maximum effectiveness, unless you’re superhuman you will have a limited amount of energy to exert on flyering, make sure you use it wisely!


Stick flyers to peoples backs without their knowledge, turning them into mini walking noticeboards for your show. Don’t do that unless you want an effective flyering strategy that will get people to your show.




Send Squirrel Comedy an article on 5 Good Reasons To See Your Show.


Spend all your time playing Clash Royale on your iPhone and then rush through a lazy half formed article masquerading as something useful.

George Dimarelos is performing Self Sabotage at The Bull & Bear Tavern